Woodburning is the art of burning words or images into the surface of wood. It’s also known as pyrography, although the word ‘pyrography’ covers a lot more than burning wood.
While pyrography can be done on not only wood, but also leather, bone, gourds and more, woodburning specifically refers to pyrography done on wood.
A wide range of tools is available, all designed for pyrography, and these can achieve lots of different effects. The pictures created with woodburning can be very detailed and in-depth.
So How Does It Actually Work?
It’s very simple: using a hot woodburning pen, you can scorch lines into wood. With different types of wood and tools, and varying temperatures, you can create all sorts of shades and designs.
When starting a project you should choose a type of wood that will complement your intended design.
Different Types of Wood
All wood can be placed into one of two categories: hardwood and softwood.
Hardwood burns slower and requires a higher temperature to burn than softwood. What type of wood you choose will depend on what your desired outcome is.
Woodburning enhances the natural grain of the wood and so what design you want to do may be affected by what wood you have available.
Take care to use untreated wood, as some treatments done to wood can be very toxic when burned. Your wood should also be sanded smooth before you start burning it.
Pyrography tools are generally divided into three categories:
- Solid-point burners
- Wire-nib burners
- Laser cutters
Solid-point burners and wire-nib burners are both woodburning pens. Solid-point burners are heated to a fixed temperature, and wire-nib burners can have multiple set temperatures and interchangeable nibs.
Laser cutters are very technical but can achieve a high standard of work if you have the right machine capable of doing pyrography.
Where Does It Come From?
During the Victorian era woodburning was known as poker work. Metal pokers were heated in a fire until they were hot enough to scorch wood.
But pyrography is much older than that. The oldest surviving object decorated with pyrography is (according to Kathleen Menendez of the E-Museum of Pyrographic Art) a container found in Peru decorated with flowers and hummingbirds dated from before 700 AD.
However, it’s believed that woodburning has been practiced in Peru for over 3000 years. Peru is thought to be one of the main birthplaces of pyrography.
Learning to do woodburning is easier than ever, with instructional videos and tutorials available online, and books and magazines at libraries and bookstores.
People do woodburning as a hobby for enjoyment. Some artists also make a career out of it selling their work or designing signs and logos made on wood.
Most woodburning is done for decoration, but it’s also a great way to make a sign or inscribe a name or word onto something. Sometimes, once a design is finished, artists varnish or color their wood in a way that will make it stand out.
The wide range of tools and different types of wood available means it can be a relatively simple craft to get into but you can get hours of enjoyment from it.